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The Interceptor system is also one of the most valuable pieces of equipment issued to combatants as they fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and risk danger inside a base camp as well as in the field. The Army, the lead buyer, says the system, with its tactical vest and Small Arm Protective Inserts (SAPI) has saved countless lives and has never failed.

Its importance is why Congress last year used legislation to order the Army to make a separate procurement, and research and development lines in the budget, for body armor, just as it does for vehicles, guns and aircraft.

Body armor is funded in a catchall operations-and-maintenance account that includes ammunition, fuel and food. Committee staffers say that by separating body armor from the rest, lawmakers can better track how much the military is spending and make adjustments if needed. It also would help the industry know what the Pentagon is willing to pay in a quest for even lighter inserts, as today’s soldier is carrying more weight than ever before.

Congress was chagrined, however, when President Obama’s 2011 defense budget came out in February. Contrary to Congress’ order, body armor stayed stuck in O&M, as it is called, reports special correspondent Rowan Scarborough.

It surprised some members, especially because Army Secretary John McHugh was the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee last year when the staff wrote the language.

When Mr. McHugh recently appeared before the committee, several members asked him about the slight.

“We have fought very hard on our subcommittee to make this a dedicated R&D and procurement line,” said Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland Republican. “We thought this would enhance the focus on this. And we think this is really needed. This didn’t happen, you know. Why didn’t it happen, and how can we make it happen so that we can have the focus we believe we need to reduce the weight and increase the effectiveness of this body armor?”

Mr. McHugh dodged the questions by saying he would look into the situation.


Under the new strategy outlined in the Nuclear Posture Review report made public this week, the Obama administration is seeking to improve global stability with plans for nuclear talks with the Chinese.

One major problem not addressed in the report is Beijing’s continued refusal to conduct in-depth talks on its nuclear arms program, which is being modernized with new missiles.

Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS, said China has said it was willing to hold nuclear talks “at the appropriate time” but has not agreed to specific meetings.

“Beijing’s attitude used to be ‘Call us when you get down to 500 warheads, and then we can talk,’” Mr. Cossa said. “But the Chinese realize that this will no longer fly.”

To justify cuts in U.S. nuclear forces at a time when China and Russia are modernizing their arsenals, the nuclear review makes “reinforcing strategic stability” a main element of the new strategy.

“Given that Russia and China are currently modernizing their nuclear capabilities — and that both are claiming U.S. missile defense and conventionally-armed missile programs are destabilizing — maintaining strategic stability with the two countries will be an important challenge in the years ahead,” the report says.

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